Friday, January 30, 2015

Slow Skis Anyone?

        Yeah that's right. If anyone saw the results from yesterday then this little side note is for you. Biathlon is a sport of many details. Some you can control and others you can't. The parts that you can't are more often then not the limiting factors.  Then there is a bit of a grey area. Nailing the race wax is pretty much in that grey area. The end result not being anyone's fault but still an unlucky day for our team at the Open European Champs here in Otepaa, EST.

            Despite not having the limitless resources that the top ranked biathlon nations have we typically have ski quality as good or better  than anyone else on race day.  This wouldn't be the first time I've mentioned this, nor would I be the only team member. There is a lot of effort that goes into the base of race ski. There is work being done on grinds in the summer, ski testing days before competition and early morning starts even for afternoon race times. Only on rare occasions do we have off days. The first two legs of the relay in Hochfilzen, AUT last December was a good example. One which help prevent me from finishing the last leg. See also the sprint in Poland a few weeks ago.
         The course here is not the kind of course profile to have slow skis on. If ever there was a course to suit bad skis it might actually be the 3.3km in Presque Isle. In other words this loop wasn't wrought with technically downhills. It's mostly long straight descents. You need a low tuck and fast skis to stay in the race. We didn't have this. You can imagine how hard it was to keep the spirit up when you're passing others on the climbs and losing it all and then some on even the shorter descents. Good or bad shooting I didn't feel as if I had a chance. Leif wasn't feeling the best before the race and dropped out. I don't blame him and complemented to the same.  

         It's no ones fault. We didn't have the full waxing service or supplies that was normally have. These things happen. Yesterday was just proof of the grey area. Aside from my last stage, shooting felt decent. It was very windy. The results of the whole field can avouch for that. The energy level was good for me. Tomorrow is a new day and a new race. Let's see what happens this time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Training in Anterselva

Didn't actually take this one. It's a picture of a picture, but you get the idea. 
          The credentials and Viessmann sticker were aligned and ready for some world cup racing action. Unfortunately, being the reserve for the first WC since December where no US athlete was sick prevented me from being on the start list. Hence "Training" in Anterselva.
There's a river outside our fence door. Just Toblack things. 
          Anterselva, or Antolze depending on your language preference is right on the border with Austria. It takes about 45 minutes of skiing up hill to reach the plateau that crosses the border. It's about ten minutes of skiing downhill to get back to the venue provided there are no collisions on the narrow pass. This particular distance session makes for one of the best there is. The view in the plateau is something special. All facilitated with perfectly groomed tracks and a restaurant or two at 2500 plus meters above sea level. It's worth mentioning that some of the other best of the best classic sessions can be done in near by places. Platzweise comes to mind and few others I don't know how to spell. One of them is Toblack (or Dobbiaco, whatever) which is where our portion of the US team stayed during the WC week. The rest of the team stayed at the usual Seehause, just above the venue. I'm not in position to complain, but the 30 minute drive and awkward breakfast situation was a turn off compared to the Seehause option.
          Without any racing to be had it was down to a few good quality training sessions. Casey Smith and I did one interval session with video work for technique purposes. The snow was slow, but realistically there was no excuse for inefficient technique. The conditions were perfect. Hard packed and cold enough to stay that way. Much like the rest of Europe Antolze was lacking snow. The trails are high enough to have what they need, but the classic track that normally starts down the valley a little ways from former USBA coach Armin's house wasn't there this year.  Three years ago that was my go to for easy distance sessions. There was one good strength sessions day in the mix. Strength tends to take a back seat during the racing season. It only fits in when there isn't too much racing going on, but not so much during a rest period. The end results is: most weight room time is logged during the training season. The lack of strength training was evident in the time trail the I did last Saturday. Naturally, being a TT held during training between WC races that didn't mean anything special it went pretty well. 70% shooting in prone and 100% in standing. Ski speed was solid, but the last two loops were rough with the sore muscles. Technique fell apart when I needed it the most. Or, at least it would have had this been something more than a training race.

       Still looking for those better results. The next chance is tomorrow. It's not a world cup and it's not in Italy. Currently a few of the USA athletes are in Otepeaa, Estonia. The travel over had it's ups and downs. I had enough room to breath and nothing more in the back seat among the excessive level of gear for the trip from Anterselva to Munich. Conversely, I had a row to myself on the plane ride to Tallinn. Beyond that there are enough details to make it wait for another update. Tomorrow is just another day. At this point all I can do is go through the motions and see what happens next.
The skiing in Toblack is great when winter actually occurs. 
Some skiing on the plateau in Austria. 

From my window. We may have been closer to the Dolamite mountains that we were to the Anterselva venue. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ridnanna, IT

          Ridnaun has always been a favorite to race at. Even when we're not staying at the four star Schneeberg maze it's a place to look forward to. It's not perfect and my results this past weekend are far from helping, but with the day by day philosophy that I've clung to this new year it's not so bad. Let's keep this short and sweet. Some pictures and right down to the point.

          There a mild blizzard for all three races. The weather was perfect. Blue sky and sunny. Or at least it was when we arrived and again today when we're getting ready to leave. The actual business part of the trip was literally blanketed with snow and overcast.  Results were not so sunny. I'm making some progress, but not in fast enough time. The conditions were never in my favor. Still, the ski speed time in the pursuit was better than I expected. Shooting felt better than it was. In the pursuit it took one prone and one standing stage to find that right rhythm. That's no excuse but it's something to work with for the next race.

          Speaking of which. The next race, as far as I'm told, will the world cup in Anterselva. The valley 90 minutes over from here. Antholze has a slightly better course profile and better venue set up. Much like Rindaun it's not unfamiliar. After that it's off to the Open European Champs in Estonia. More details on that later.  Beyond that I don't have the slightest idea and don't have the motivation to dwell on it. For now here are some pictures of one of the best places to be.
The team VW still going strong since 2006
With some poor shooting I was out of the relay. In it's place was an 1:40 run. 
Not all of these pictures are in chronological order. There wasn't enough snow for a 3.3km loop when teams were arriving. 
...And then the snow came just in time for us to race in it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


         Now I can say I've raced in Poland. Long story short, I can not say that much success has been had racing here. From the start, the Individual competition was reduced to a sprint on a 2.5km loop. The sprint that was originally planned on Saturday was held, but only on a 1.3km loop. And the pursuit was just never held at all. The fight for snow continues. Not unlike the fight for a better race.

         Travel could have been worse. All of my gear made it over in one piece. That's asking for a lot from United these days. After leaving Chicago they discovered that our plan wasn't fit to fly over seas and had to turn around 90 minutes in. So no flight to Munich until the following afternoon.

            Skies were off the mark on Friday’s sprint. It was unusual to see the pair that I choose not perform the way they had been in December. But slow skies coupled with three misses in standing made for an sub decent result. Saturday's sprint required our techs and coaches to count our loops for us. It seems simple, but you don't want to risk disqualifying yourself for being unable to keep track of when you should go into the lap, shooting, or finish lane. Skies and shape felt better than Friday, but the final result was still off of what I thought I could do.

          It rained for the bulk of Friday night and Saturday morning. With so little snow the pursuit was up for debate. The decision was to have the race on a 2.5km loop or not at all. Before 8 am this morning we had the official word that there would be no pursuit. Had the race gone as planned Wynn, Sean, and I would have started within five seconds of each other. Most of us went for an easy run and did some hotel room strength instead.

            On the plus side it was nice to have the rain stop before our race. Just above freezing temps with rain is not my favorite. Our hotel owner speaks great English and always around to help. The internet is temperamental, but more functional than central Europe. The course atmosphere is nice. Closed in with lots of spruce trees. Try skiing in Vermont or the Nordic Heritage Center in the winter and tell me you don't prefer to see more conifers. The venue lay out is also well done. Nothing is too far away. Conversely The wax rooms could use some rearranging. More chairs, and less icy flooring.
Next week was supposed to be in Langdorf, Germany. A place I haven't been to in years. The Langdorf option was out of the question a week ago. Oberhof was the B-site option. As of this morning they were unclear if they would be able to host the IBU Cup 5. It wasn't until dinner an hour ago that we found out Oberhof was out and the plan C was the new race destination. This brings us to Ridnaun, Italy. Wouldn't be the first time I've competed there. We leave early tomorrow morning for the nine plus hour drive. Aside from that there is nothing to complain about. No one hates racing in Ridnaun.

            Motivation has been in the fog for the new year. A solid result might help, but who knows. At this point it's a day by day strategy. If the conditions are hard packed the way they usually are in Ridnaun things could start to turn around. If they don't, such is life. With a day by day process worrying about next week is a non factor. For now it's just finishing up with this blog. That and my most favorite activity of all: Packing! Your welcome to try and contact me, but keep in mind we're headed into the heart of the globe's internet blind spot that is central Europe. This is me still hanging in there.